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Relational Aggression

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Relational Aggression

A high school student cried as she recounted being tormented in middle school by her classmates. For some reason she was targeted as a "dog," and day after day she had to walk the halls with kids barking at her. How did it stop? The girl said she stopped it. But how? She picked out another girl, someone worse off than herself, and started to call her dog. Then the others forgot about her. Then they barked at the other girl instead. Girls may be made of sugar and spice and everything nice, but on the inside, they are just plain mean. "Girls tease, insult, threaten, gossip maliciously, and play cruel games with their friends' feelings and set up exclusive cliques and hierarchies in high schools." (Omaha World Herald, 10A).

Relational aggression is a fairly new development, which involves adolescent girls and their emotions. To understand this newly found term, one must start from the core word "aggression."

After understanding the forms of aggression, one can slowly begin to understand relational aggression. Aggression is defined as behavior that is intended to harm others. Aggression can take many forms including physical violence, date violence, and criminal violence. Most have related aggression with the male physical violence or "beating up." Most females have low or do not show any form of aggression; therefore, most people believe women to be the lesser aggressive sex. It is true that males are proven to be more aggressive than females, but not by far. This is depending on which form of aggression is being studied.

So why are girls so "aggressive?" Nicki Crick, PhD, a researcher at the University of Minnesota says: "Physical aggression isn't very accepted for girls, so they turn to manipulation and emotional threats as weapons" (Murray, par 3). "In recent research, it indicates that gender differences in aggression disappears when the definition of aggression is broadened to include aggressive acts in whish the victim's personal relationships are manipulated of damaged-- that is, relational aggression" (Miller, 145).

"Relational aggression is defined as behaviors that harm others by damaging (or threatening to damage) or manipulating one's relationship with his/her peers, or by injuring one's feelings of social acceptance." (Ophelia Project, "Issues" par 3). This type of aggression is mainly directed toward the emotions rather than physical behavior. Some examples of relational aggression include:

Purposefully ignoring someone when one is angry with the other (i.e. "silent treatment")

Spreading rumors

Telling others not to talk or engage with them

Trying to take the other's dating partner (if angry at the same sex) (Burgess, 1)

These behaviors compare to those of children in preschool or lower elementary classes, which show immaturity.

One example of relational aggression is that of a girl who was falsely accused of going on a date with another girl's boyfriend. The victim's house was egged while she was out to dinner with her parents. The following week, she could hear others shout harmful and embarrassing things to her. At a basketball game, the girl approached the victim and verbally harassed her in front of everyone. She went home and cried that night. She made it through the school year, but

She had completely dropped out of every activity. The following year, she transferred schools. This is an example of a severe case of relational aggression. It got to the point where this girl had



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